Monday 5 December 2016

No record of millions donated to Console - report

Published 18/07/2016 | 02:30

Interim Console CEO David Hall Photo: Tony Gavin
Interim Console CEO David Hall Photo: Tony Gavin

No record can be found of the millions of euros in cash donations which poured into the suicide bereavement charity Console over the years from generous fund-raisers and donors, a damning new report has revealed.

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The unpublished dossier - presented to the Console board by interim chief executive David Hall last week on the eve of the charity's liquidation in the High Court - reveals the real extent of the chaos which reigned behind the scenes and how it was poorly run.

This is despite an estimated total income of at least €5m in just three years. It has debts of nearly €300,000.

Mr Hall, who trawled through the Console offices and remaining files over several weeks, presented an alarming circular to the board following the disclosure that charity founder Paul Kelly plundered funds for his own lifestyle.

The report revealed Mr Hall could not locate any records of cash donations being logged at the Celbridge headquarters.

Read More: Charities braced for a drop in donations - again

"It appears that many events occurred that resulted in cash donations - ranging from individual counselling sessions to large events - and the process around this is unclear."

It also revealed that Console had no relevant planning permission for some of its regional counselling centres and a number were in serious rent arrears, putting the charity at risk of eviction. The centres in Loughlinstown in Dublin and Athlone were both more than six months in arrears, with over €6,500 owed in each location.

There was €12,500 owed for the centre in Tralee owned by the Catholic Diocese of Kerry. This prompted a call from the office of the Bishop of Kerry, Bishop Ray Browne, to Console earlier this month.

Mr Hall found a huge mortgage of €3,670 a month on a house on the Navan Road in Dublin was a significant drain on resources and that it would be possible to rent premises locally for much less.

"It is questionable if mortgage payments at this level are in line with the charity's charitable purpose."

Mr Kelly, whose wife Patricia was listed as a director of the charity, appeared to allow bills to "drift into arrears" and risk services being cut, or else deal with them at the last minute.

This applied to rent, staff wages, contractor payments and phone lines for the helpline.

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The report said the annual cost of running the charity ranged between €1.2m and €1.6m, with the HSE paying around €700,000.

It is unclear if Console ever did a proper costing and the charity had no finance function, financial controller or financial officer. It was run by Mr Kelly who had no formal finance or accountancy training.

Mr Hall told the board that following the 'RTÉ Investigates' programme's revelations, he believed the HSE should have acted swiftly to protect the services that Console provided to vulnerable people.

He said: "In my view, the HSE has abandoned service users, staff and remaining board members of Console for reasons that are unclear, especially given the time frame that elapsed since the findings of the HSE audit." The board accepted his recommendation to have Console liquidated.

Meanwhile, Paul Kelly is expected to apply to the High Court tomorrow for living expenses from his own personal accounts which have been frozen.

The application is believed to include permission to apply for social welfare and access to €3,500 a month to pay the mortgage on his plush home in Clane. He also wants €1,600 to pay the mortgage on the former Console headquarters in Celbridge. Many counsellors who are owed wages are unlikely to be paid.

Irish Independent

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